I came across a television programme about climate change sceptics the other night and started watching it. The man-made-climate-change denier they followed the most seemed, at the least, peculiarly fixated (and was later shown up to be somewhat economical with the truth – not to say downright mendacious in his quotations.)
Where he began to annoy me was when he marched off to a geological site in Australia with some acid in a bottle in order to “prove” that there were high levels of carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere when the whole planet was iced over. He proceeded to say, “Here’s a piece of Dolomite, let’s pour acid on it and see if it gives off CO2,” and I thought, “Wait a minute. Dolomite’s a carbonate, of course it’ll give off CO2 when you put acid on it!”
Any carbonate rock will do. Try the White Cliffs of Dover, you’ll get the same result. Or a piece of marble.
So this “proof” consisted of nothing other than an unremarkable bit of chemistry. Quite how it was supposed to relate to the atmospheric conditions which pertained millions of years ago was never quite made clear.
The same guy then went on to speak to an audience of Aussie sceptics some of whom the programme interviewed afterward and they spoke of him as if he were a prophet and climate change scepticism as if it were a religion.
He took the biscuit at a Tea Party rally in the US where he buttered the crowd up with the “great land of freedom” rhetoric, spoke to their prejudices and apparently almost omitted to mention any scientific evidence at all. Another of the speakers raised great cheers when he said, “Americans won’t be bullied.”
Speaking to the camera one more attender at the rally said they were standing up against tyranny. (Though what they have yet actually been forced to do that they didn’t want to I have no idea.)
A day or so later I was showing a class a (twenty year old) video about the acid rain problem and the use of catalytic converters in cars and a thought occurred to me.
Wasn’t the removal of leaded petrol equally “tyrannical” as any putative legislation to alleviate climate change? Or the introduction of catalytic converters? This was in effect a tax on people (and cars) exactly of the sort the Tea Partiers at the rally were apparently complaining about. Yet I don’t remember large protests about them. Nor hearing of Acid Rain sceptics – still less Acid Rain deniers.
Why was this? What made/makes the difference?
Where were the Acid Rain deniers?
The answer may lie in the fact that having catalytic converters in your car doesn’t imply a change in lifestyle, merely a slightly higher cost of living – sweetened, of course, in the UK when unleaded petrol was phased in, by the lower tax levied on it in comparison with leaded.
The programme also spoke to several US petrol heads who were not sceptical of anthropogenic climate change but still liked their cars and motor-bikes. One referred to oil as the US’s crack cocaine, that it’s going to be hard, if not impossible, to wean them off it.
But it was this standing against tyranny thing that struck me.
How far do these people go in their individualism and disrespect for rules/instruction/coercion?
When they get in their SUVs or 4x4s and drive off to their rifle and pistol shootathons do they wear seat belts, I wonder? Do they drive on whatever-side-of-the-road-they-damn-well-please? Or do they accept there are some limits on their freedom?
Where, exactly, do they draw the line in standing up against tyranny?
Do they accept there are any limits on their freedom? And if they do, why are they so against what, if they are right, would be only a relatively minor inconvenience in the larger scheme of things but if they are wrong means they – and all the rest of us – may be totally stuffed?
Or do they think they are somehow inviolable and just don’t care about anyone else?